Working for Peace While Preparing for War: The Creation of the United States Institute of Peace

Journal article

Montgomery, Mary E. (2003) Working for Peace While Preparing for War: The Creation of the United States Institute of Peace, Journal of Peace Research 40 (4).

Drawing upon US government and other sources, this article discusses the prolonged debate over the creation of the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) in the I 980s. In examining the arguments presented by members of Congress, academicians, the media, religious leaders, and international observers, this article illustrates how the US government and the presidential administration of Ronald Reagan created the USIP as a reluctant concession to forces with a more genuine interest in peace. An overview of the historical initiatives to create a government-sponsored institute for peace establishes that the campaign is as old as the nation itself .US forays into civil war, national aggrandizement, and world wars derailed 19th- and 20th-century progress on the creation of a peace department. The academy concept re-emerged after World War II, only to find new competition in the Cold War. This article also considers the 1981—83 legislative attempts toward a United States Peace Academy, the work of the resulting exploratory commission, and the ensuing hearings and debate. The testimony of witnesses before the Commission and during congressional hearings traversed a wide continuum, from support to derision for the Peace Academy. Would the academy symbolize a peace commitment to the world community, or suggest that the United States had gone soft, unwilling or unable to win the Cold War? Was the study of peace a cozy yet unviable liberal ideal, or was peace and conflict resolution studies a meritorious, ‘teachable’ discipline? Did a Peace Academy represent a positive cost—benefit ratio with regard to US weapons expenditures, or were peace initiatives no substitute for military deterrence? While these debates ended with the 1984 creation of the USIP, the backlash of the Reagan administration plagued the institution’s start-up and finding, and suggested that the administration would merely pay lip service to peace, while continuing to prepare for war. The conclusion provides an overview of the challenges and successes of the USIP since its official opening in 1986.

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